Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, and
Beast Mtawarira, fresh from taming every front row in the Rugby Championship,
are a national treasure - the rock that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer uses as
his foundation to build a side with a more attacking intent.
Few would argue against this unit being the
best in world rugby right now. That they play for the same province, and will
indeed be trotting out in black and white this Saturday to take on the mountain
goats of the cape, borders on gob smacking!
Throw in the fact that luminaries like Pat
Lambie and Jean de Villiers can only make the respective benches, that Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth will be going head to head in the lineouts, as
will Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee at the breakdown, while Keegan Daniel will
need to get past Duane Vermeulen when he decides to pick and go from a scrum on
the WP tryline, and one can understand why SANZAR are keen make derbies the
mainstay of Super Rugby.
But this is not Super Rugby. This is the
final round of that grand old dame of SA rugby, the Currie Cup, and I cannot
remember when I was last this excited about a round of domestic matches. The
Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls match boasts similar head heads, and comes with an extra dose
of caffeine given that the Bulls need to make like the Boks needed to do
against the All Blacks last week and score four tries in a win to make the semis.
It is tremendous to have the Boks back in
the Currie Cup!
I have seen much grumbling about the Boks
needing time off, but until SARU get it right and put central contracting of
players in place, this is simply not going to happen. The provinces pay the
players’ salaries (and they are not eating out of tin cans) and deserve their
pound of flesh. As do the sponsors of the Currie Cup, and us fans.
I also happen to believe that it makes a
lot more sense for these guys to be playing now, and then taking a longer break
over the SA summer.
Taking three weeks off now and then going on an end of year tour
does not constitute player management. Prof Noakes has volumes of research
proving that the players need an extended break from the game every season, not
mini breaks over an all year season.
It would also give the coach a chance to do
something that he is yet to do effectively, and that is take a look at the next
tier of players on the end of year tour in order to make a few definitive calls
re backup to the incumbents.
To my mind, positions that need a little
scrutiny are tighthead prop (is Coenie Oosthuizen really the next in line
should Jannie get injured), No 5 lock, flyhalf and fullback. So the end of
year tour is an ideal opportunity to start the likes of Oosthuizen and Lourens
Adriaanse at tighthead, Du Toit and Franco van der Merwe at 5, give Lambie a
run at both flyhalf and fullback, take Johan Goosen and Handre Pollard on tour,
and try the likes of Willie le Roux and Gio Aplon at fullback.
There is absolutely no way that De Villiers
(also a good opportunity to test a few new captains), Jannie Du Plessis, or Beast
should be touring. All of Etzebeth, Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and
Vermeulen have had extended breaks from the game through injury, but perhaps
even they could do with an extra dose of turkey this year...
Who the hell remembers the end of year tour
results in any case? Most eyes will have shifted to the Indian cricket tour,
should that actually go ahead! It is an ideal opportunity to rest the over
worked stalwarts, and mix a few youngsters with some older heads to take a look
at options should one of these stalwarts get injured.
Now that would be player management, and
given the lack of central contracting, it is the only player management tool at
SARU’s disposal. But it would take some gumption and planning from both the
national body and coach, and require a break from the old routine. And I do not
see that happening any time soon.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop and editor of the recently launched free monthly digital rugby magazine called SCRUM
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